The Tasmanian countryside is known for its stunning mountain ranges and abundant wildlife.
On the morning of Saturday 20 May, several bicycle riders wearing bright red shirts will begin a 650km expedition around the island, taking in some of this majestic scenery, to raise funds for The Salvation Army’s Red Shield Appeal.
The “Red Shield Ride” will take five days, starting and ending in Hobart, with a route that will take the riders to the north coast and back. Along the way, they will share the message of the Red Shield Appeal with the media, the public, politicians and other Salvationists.
At the front of the small peloton will be the figure of Captain Johnmark Snead, Corps Officer at Hobart Citadel. He has been the organiser of the Red Shield Ride for the past two years, covering about 1000km and helping to raise more than $8700.
Covering this distance across Tasmania, however, is only a slice of the journey Captain Snead has taken in life. In 1999, he travelled 17,000km from his homeland of Birmingham in the United Kingdom to call Australia home. He flew Down Under to win the heart of a girl named Nicole, whom he met in the United States. You could say things turned out well as they were married a year later.
The couple made a decision to become Salvation Army officers and were commissioned in the Heralds of the Good News session in 2007. Captain Snead was appointed as the youth secretary in the Tasmania Division in 2014, when he put his bike-ride fundraising idea into action.
“I started the Tasmanian Red Shield Ride because I figured people were more inclined to sponsor me to ride my bike and do something difficult than they were to hand over money at a front door,” he says.
A keen cyclist since childhood, Captain Snead was an avid mountain biker before finding his niche on a road bike. “I started doing road riding, and I found that I was enjoying it a whole lot more, specifically over the last couple of years since I’ve been doing the Red Shield Ride,” he says. “I figured I’d enjoy it a whole lot more than door-knocking!
And even though I’m used to cycling, the Red Shield Ride has been a massive motivation for training,” he adds, admitting the ride is also beneficial for his fitness. “I set some goals for myself to get fitter and lost a whole heap of weight. Since the first Tasmanian ride, I’ve lost about 30 kilos!”
While Captain Snead is the face of the Red Shield Ride, he is keen to point out that he was inspired by his brother-in-law, Aaron Petersen, a member of the Noble Park Corps, who rode solo from Adelaide to Melbourne in five days in 2013 to raise funds for the Red Shield Appeal.
“I rode the last leg with Aaron in 2013, so he was the original inspiration for it,” says Captain Snead. “And he actually came and rode the first year with us (in Tasmania).”
Aaron’s grandfather, Major William ‘Dick’ Guy, completed a Melbourne-Adelaide ride in the 1940s, and received his call to officership during the journey. So you could say that the spirit of the Red Shield Ride has been alive for more than 70 years.
Major William 'Dick' Guy - the original Red Shield Rider.
The Red Shield Ride has taken different routes over the past two years, although they both started at Burnie Corps and finished in Hobart six days later. In 2015, the group rode 466km with inclines totalling 4868m. In 2016, the route covered 564km with inclines of 7500m. This year looks to be the toughest ride yet. Their 650km route will take the group north to Launceston and Burnie, with elevations equalling 8000m.
But this is something to be celebrated, given the premise of the ride has always been challenge – not just for donations, but also in recognition of the invaluable work the Salvos do every day. “Every day the Salvos come alongside people who are doing it tough and do so day in day out,” says Captain Snead. “So if this is tough for me – and it will be the longest ride I've attempted – that’s okay!”
This year, with an increased emphasis on participation, either for the whole ride, or on an individual leg, the ride also accentuates the importance of community for the riders and clients.
Reflecting on the previous rides, Captain Snead pointed out that each person’s challenge is the group’s shared challenge. “A significant component of the challenge is going to be making sure each of the riders finishes each day,” he says. “The Red Shield Ride has reminded me that The Salvation Army is committed to coming alongside those who don't have anyone else, and walking with them. I’m glad I’m a part of that.”
Captain Phill Abram, Captain Johnmark Snead, Stuart Foster and Adrian Wilson.
Aside from the physical preparation, a lot of work also goes on behind the scenes to make the Red Shield Ride happen. Risk assessments, mapping, allocating places for rest, and – Captain Snead’s quintessential English favourite – finding folks who will give the team a good feed and cup of tea, are all essential to make the ride happen.
“I’m determined to enjoy every bit of [the ride],” he says. “I've ridden enough times to know that when you’re out on the bike, you really need to make sure you lift your head and look around you. I can’t think of a better place than Tasmania to ride along and take in the beauty and wonder of nature.”
For more information about the Red Shield Ride and to donate, please go to salvationarmy.org.au/redshieldride